Antibiotic ‘Last line of defence under threat’ say researchers

You may have read in the news recently that our last line of defence against bacterial infection has come under serious threat. While hospitals are already forced into using ‘last-resort‘ antibiotics, new research results suggest we may reach breaking point soon.

This final stand against the tide of antibacterial infection comes in the form of Polymyxin. A group of antibiotics with a general structure of a cyclic peptide and a long hydrocarbon tail. They kill bacteria by binding with lipids in the phospolipid membrane and thus disintegrating it. While this group of antibiotics was developed around 60 years ago they are rarely used. This is because they are both neuro- and nephrotoxic; affecting both the nervous system and the kidneys.

Continue reading Antibiotic ‘Last line of defence under threat’ say researchers

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How bad teeth could tell us a great deal about ancient humans.

At some point, most of us have probably been told by the dentist that we need to brush more as we have dental plaque building up. But what is dental plaque and what could it tell us about ancient humans?

Dental calculus (plaque) is ubiquitous on modern human teeth; it forms when a biofilm of oral bacteria builds up on the teeth and calcifies. As calcium phosphate mineral salts deposit on the tooth surface the biofilm becomes ‘trapped’ and preserved (Weyrich et al. 2015). This happens constantly over the individual’s lifetime trapping layer upon layer of bacteria. While dental plaque is often discarded from both live and dead individuals it is now recognised that this plaque contains bacteria that can be identified. Luckily for us ancient (and modern) hunter-gatherer groups don’t brush their teeth!

Continue reading How bad teeth could tell us a great deal about ancient humans.

Bacterial antibiotic resistance explained in a short video

A fantastic short educational video on bacterial antibiotic resistance genes, it helped me to visualise the mechanisms when i was revising for my undergraduate microbiology exam. This and other videos by Armando Hasudungan deserve a lot more popularity as they are very well put together and explain things with great clarity.

Extremophile bacteria and the implications for extra-terrestrial life

Kicking off this blog with a rather long post based upon microbial extremophiles. In light of the recent discovery of water on Mars, I thought I’d write about the potential for life (microbial life) on other planets.

imagesFrom the beginnings of modern science it has always been hypothesised that we are not alone in the universe. This idea has been the driving force behind years and years of science fiction writing, film and artwork. While many people may believe in extra-terrestrial life, it is not very well know that microbes may well hold the key. An extremophile is an organism that survives and thrives in a physically or chemically extreme environment that would be inhospitable to ‘normal’ organisms. Extremophiles are characterised by the environment they are found in, for instance a psychrophile is found in extreme cold, halophiles found in extremes of salt and xerophiles in extremely dry environments.

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